Today I upgraded to the 'new Microsoft Edge' browser. Fine and dandy, and there are functions for improving the user's reading or listening to texts.

In the 'read aloud' function, you can hear ENGLISH read in any one of a dozen or so 'foreign accents' (not in the foreign language itself - though that is of course available too - but with an 'accent' that resembles a 'typical' Italian, Polish or Chinese person's accent in English (pronunciation I mean of course).

Why in the world did Microsoft come up with this option? There must be a reason, but when I learned the 'foreign languages' I know, I never dreamed of trying to pronounce them with a 'typical' accent of somebody from my country! (Or is this perhaps expected today?) This seems perfectly nonsensical, but I will reserve judgement on it, hoping that someone can explain the reason. It might help actors learn the 'accents' they need for a new movie, or undercover agents preparing for a new assignment.


We don't know why Microsoft did so unless Microsoft makes an official press release about its reasoning.

However, it seems easy to speculate why it would be beneficial for a native language speaker to know foreign accents. Here's my try, not very scientific, rather based on my experience.

The key reason to learning foreign languages is obtaining an ability to communicate with more people.

And this is a two-way street. A non-native speaker would inevitably do some mistakes speaking a foreign language. This is where I must disagree with your point:

I know, I never dreamed of trying to pronounce them with a 'typical' accent of somebody from my country!

Unless the L2 speaker is really good at the foreign language (most people are not), the accent will remain and it may lead to misunderstandings. However, if you (as an L1 listener) know where this person came from, you could detect these mistakes and quite often, even correct it.

Consider this example: you as a native English speaker talk to me, a native Ukrainian.
My language belongs to Slavonic family, and here are some phonetic differences between Ukrainian and English:

  • we have neither of two th sounds, expect me saying z, d, or v in "this";
  • we have no -ng, expect me saying n+g;
  • we have devoicing of final consonants (-g becomes -k);
  • we see no difference between [ɪ]/[iː], so expect me saying "ship" instead of "sheep";
  • we have rolling r;
  • we have different stress patterns, expect me misusing the stress in "fifteen" versus "fifty";
  • we have no articles at all, expect me mixing "a" and "the" or losing it completely;

Communication is a two-way street. If you as a native language speaker know where another person came from, you are able to identify and correct misunderstandings caused by another person's accent in your language.


It is likely because even with years of practice and perfection of a foreign language, you are still unlikely to master the accent. To those who grew up speaking the language, you will still hold residual parts of your native tongue's accent.

So when learning pronunciation in a new language, it is unlikely that you will get those perfectly rolled rrrr's in Spanish, but listening to what a native German speaker sounds like when pronouncing Spanish words can help you understand how close you are. Perhaps once you've mastered pronunciation of the foreign language for your native tongue, then you can start listening to native speakers of the language to further refine your accent.

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